there are things we have to do that we can't stand Who: Alice & Gabe. What: Alice goes to Gabe with some information about Rafe. Where: Gabe's apartment. When: Midday Dec. 8.
Gabe was laid out on his couch, arm still in a sling, a little high on painkillers as he flipped through TV channels. He didn't have enough presence of mind to sink himself into a book—though he had enough guilt to have a small voice in the back of his mind constantly reminding himself that there were other things he could be doing in spite of the inability to write—and was instead trying to find something entertaining to watch while Rafe was at work.
His conversation with Obed had done little to assuage his worries, especially as the distance seemed to continue to grow between them. And now it wasn't just a figurative space, either; Rafe was starting to move away from his touch, putting air and other things between them beside the elephant in the room. Between being unable to work at his craft and thus vent some of his emotions, Gabe was starting to feel despondent and even more unsure in confronting Rafe about all of it.
Peacefully numb for the moment, he missed the first knock on his door; the second had him blinking, and he quickly got to his feet. He didn't notice that Spot did not stir from his place; there was no jingle of tags to announce the dog's interest in whoever was at the door. Gabe shuffled through his space, and answered the inquiry. He quickly pushed a small smile on his face upon seeing who it was, merely for appearances when he didn't quite feel up to having visitors.
"Alice," he said, pulling the door wide. "What can I do for you?"
Alice looked up at Rafael’s boyfriend and didn’t feel at all as brave as she had the last time she found herself beating her fist on his door. “Hi, um... can I talk to you for a minute? Is Rafael here?” She was already glancing around Gabe and into the depths of the apartment, her lips pressed into a thin line and a crease in her brow.
"No," he said, a little more quietly than he normally would have. He took a step back, holding the door wide awkwardly with his left to let her in. He closed the door behind her, moving around her into the entrance of the kitchen, waving her toward the tall chairs along the wet bar butted up against his sink.
"Can I get you something to drink?" He fought a rising sense of dread that something else had happened with Rafe, another straw on the camel's back.
“Um, I’ll take water,” Alice replied as she moved to take her seat, obviously searching the room as she pushed the sleeves of her fluffy sweater up. While it was still LA temperatures and weather everywhere else, it wasn’t the case at the apartment complex, instead it felt more like late January in DC. “Where’s your puppy? Sleeping somewhere?”
Gabe took two steps back, leaning to spy Spot merely by his rump in the corner of the room, Gabe's vision partially blocked by the couch.
"I think the cold weather's getting to him," Gabe replied, forcing a little more cheeriness into his voice. He looked to Alice, smiled, and then went to the kitchen—his expression nearly going flat. Pulling the refrigerator door wide, he grabbed a Brita-filtered water pitcher and started to get together a glass as best he could with one hand.
"So what's up?" He glanced at the redhead as he worked, pulling a glass down from the cabinet, closing the door, lifting the pitcher, filling the vessel. All of his movements were slow but precise, even more careful due to his current disability.
“Ah, so…” She frowned, her hands pulling her sleeves back down to her wrists and fidgeting with the edges. “I wanted to talk to you about Rafael, actually. I’m...ah…” She bit at her bottom lip, her heel bouncing against the rung of the bar stool. “I’m sort of concerned and I wanted to tell you about it, you know, because you’re closer to him. So much has been going on, I’m not sure if I’m overreacting or if there’s actually something to be worried about. So… you know, just trying to be certain…”
Gabe nodded, and slid the water in front of Alice. He remained where he stood, across from her, leaning against the sink with his non-injured hand resting on the counter.
"Go ahead," he said, his voice quiet again as he did his best to mentally prepare himself.
She met his gaze and took a deep breath before beginning. “A little bit ago, Rafael stopped into the bakery, which is totally normal but not this time.” She reached for the cup of water and gripped it with both hands, glancing from the liquid and to Gabe, back and forth as she spoke. “He showed up before the bakery was even open. It was… really early in the morning. Like, not even five. He was with a group of guys I’ve never met...well… except for Robbie. Robbie was there.
“And they all were just… drunk. Obliterated. Loud and kind of obnoxious. Not Rafael, well, he wasn’t obnoxious. He was himself...sort of. He helped make croissants but he just seemed...off. The whole time he seemed not quite like himself. You know? Sort of like he was trying really hard to appear normal to me.”
Concern twitched across Gabe's face, his eyes going wide. He nodded, the movement small and tightly controlled.
"I know exactly what you mean. But... nothing happened there and then, right? You were safe?"
Alice blinked and sat up a little more straight. “Oh, yeah! No, I wasn’t like… unsafe or anything,” She quickly replied. “Rafael didn’t make me feel like he was a danger or anything. I just… I felt like something was off with him and it got me wondering...you know, with his history. The company he was keeping wasn’t very comforting…now those guys did make me feel uncomfortable. They were, I guess, nice enough but…”
She shrugged. “I’m a girl all alone in a bakery at four in the morning. When a group of drunk guys show up that I don’t know, it’s enough to make me sort of mentally on high alert.”
He nodded again, blinking, but his gaze never wavered away from Alice's face. "I'm sorry he did that, Alice, I..." Now his gaze did avert, dropping into the sink. His eyes closed and Gabe rubbed a hand over his face. His beard was longer and a little less kept than usual; he was sans glasses, and he looked much older than his thirty-odd years.
"Rafe hasn't been dealing with the Halloween party well," he said, finally, eyes opening to settle back on Alice's face. His hand reached to touch the knobs of the tap, but then immediately moved back to the counter's edge. "I've... I've been meaning to speak with him, but he's..." He licked his lips, falling silent, not sure how much to say or even what to say. His brow furrowed.
"So what happened, exactly? He showed up early, with friends, and helped you make croissants? Nothing else? Did he say what they'd been doing?"
“He said they were out drinking, having a good time. He was talking a mile a minute, much more than usual. I mean, you know how he is. He’s not exactly chatty, but he was really talkative that morning and flitting from one topic to another. He mentioned that you had gotten hurt, said it was his fault, brought up Christmas and talked about a bunch of other things but only briefly.” She looked to the ceiling and sighed, trying to think of everything exactly as it had happened. “He did say he hadn’t been sleeping well and seemed very uncomfortable about everything that happened during Halloween. He was fidgeting, couldn’t focus on anything, maybe he does need a good night’s sleep but…”
She frowned and looked back at Gabe. “I didn’t even know he was using drugs when he was living in my apartment with me and now I’m just worried something’s wrong and I may not notice or be able to help him. I don’t know if I’m overreacting. If I am, just tell me, but I don’t want to miss something crucial like I’ve already done before.”
Gabe stayed quiet through her whole explanation, nodding here and there, but when she came to the end hoping he'd have an answer other than the one she'd already arrived at, his mouth thinned to a line.
"I don't think you're missing anything. It sounds like he's using again." His mind briefly flickered to his not-so-subtle invitation for Rafe to spend more time in his apartment, and how he'd been quickly if gently shut down. Of course Rafe would want his space, to keep something like this from those closest to him. And of course he'd keep Alice at an arm's length, just the same as he had been Gabe. Gabe turned to one side, leaning against the counter with a hip, and rubbed his beard.
"I'm going to talk to him. I think... I'm pretty sure I know what's bothering him, but..." He fell silent once more, his hand coming down, fingers spider-walking along his sling for a moment before his arm hung at his side. He glanced at Alice. "He's not going to want to hear it."
Alice frowned and she appeared, for a moment, ready to spring from her seat to offer Gabe comfort. If it was Rafael, she’d hug him, snuggle up to his side, but she and Gabe didn’t have that kind of relationship. They barely knew each other outside of meetings like this. “Do you want me to be there? Maybe it’ll be worth doubling up. He can’t avoid it if multiple people are in his face saying we see that there’s something wrong. We could play good cop bad cop, or just confront him mutually.
“I know he’s been bothered by stuff for awhile, although he’s never been upfront with me about it despite the few times I’ve asked him. I mean, this apartment complex alone is enough to drive someone insane…” Her arms wrapped around herself as she considered her all-too-recent panic attack in the elevator.
He shook his head, mouth curling into a frown.
"No, this... This is personal, I think it would be better if I handled it alone. He's... It's not going to be pleasant." He turned, his front facing the sink, eyes meeting hers. "Not that I don't appreciate the offer, or the fact that you came to me. I've been worried about him, actually for a while now... He seemed like he was doing better before Halloween but... Now everything's just broken." Gabe needled one lip with his teeth. "This is the push I've been needing, to talk to him. Try and figure out what's going on."
He swallowed, and shifted topics. "How are you, though? All right? You said the apartment complex is... I mean, I've never seen it snow in Los Angeles, so that was certainly a change."
Alice glanced uneasily at the windows and the swirling snowflakes outside and didn’t look particularly pleased by the wintery view. “I’ve been better,” she admitted as she turned her attention back to Gabe. “I can sympathize with Rafe, honestly. Everything that’s gone on here, what happened during Halloween, now this snow… I never had a panic attack until the start of this month. I feel like I’m going insane here and I’ve never had any dependency issues. I think if I did, I’d be turning to it too. My heart’s breaking for him. I wish we could fix it.”
"We can," Gabe found himself saying, asserting the idea as though it were fact. "At least, I hope we can. The most we can do is tell him—repeatedly—that he has the support, and he doesn't need the drugs." Their apartment complex was indeed strange, but he didn't find it anything he couldn't handle. It helped, in the long run, that there were others; watching Rafe fall to pieces was not helping, but at the very least, Gabe was going to fixate on it like a homing beacon and ignore everything else for the time being.
He looked out the window himself. "You know, snow is the least of our problems, unless it starts sprouting monsters like the Halloween party. Maybe you should take a day off, and just go play in it? I haven't seen anything emerge so far." His voice was gentle, suggestive of the idea that Alice needed to relax and perhaps take things as they came, instead of trying to enforce strict rules of reality. He glanced over to Spot. "If the old man was more up to it, I think he'd love a snow day."
Alice frowned, the panic that she had felt didn’t really work in the easy way that Gabe described. While the idea that monsters could appear certainly was a possibility that drew her anxiety, it was so much more than that. The fact that it was snowing alone had been the tipping point for her and Rafael’s behavior had helped her get to that point of breaking.
She kept this to herself though, vowing silently to never let anyone know that her own worries and concern over Rafael had helped her get to the point of gasping for air on the floor of the elevator, but instead turned on the chair and leaned forward to catch a look at Spot. “You know, I could take him downstairs into the snow if you’d like.” She glanced back at Gabe, her eyes pleading slightly. “Cats don’t really do leashes--at least Molly doesn’t, I’ve tried. But if you’d like, we can go step out on the sidewalk he and I.”
Gabe smiled wider, shaking his head again.
"Thank you, that's very kind; but that's all right, I've already been trying to walk him, but lately he just seems to want to...sleep. Honestly, I can't say he's got the wrong idea." He glanced down at the sink in front of him, the dishes that were piling up. In truth, he just needed to move them to the dishwasher, but it was an issue for another time.
"Is there anything else I can help you with? Not that I'm trying to rush you out or anything—I promise I'll talk to Rafe, and I'll let you know what happens."
Alice turned back to Gabe and placed her hands on the counter as she pushed off the chair and onto her feet. “No, that’s all. I just… just wanted you to know about Rafael and that I’m worried. I’ll let you go rest. Heal yourself, you know?” She smiled at Gabe as she stepped away and toward the door, pausing at it for a moment to turn back to him again. “But one more thing… when you talk to Rafael, could you make sure he just knows...I’m not mad at him, I’m just worried and I love him. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. Please? Can you make sure he knows that?”
"Of course," Gabe replied, coming around his side of the divider. "Alice, I don't think Rafe would ever be mad at you. You're not... it's not gossiping or tattle-telling, you care about him and sometimes Rafe is too thickheaded to hear it. I think he'd understand that you're doing it because you're worried about him. OK?"
He walked her to his front door, niceties exchanged between the two acquaintances bridged mostly by the one person they knew. Once he closed the door behind her, Gabe felt a weight drop onto his shoulders, and he went to his phone still sitting on an end table near the couch. He texted a quick message to Rafe.